Several surprises and imponderables await Eintracht Frankfurt in the Conference League group game at HJK Helsinki. Fans should pack warm clothes. The most important questions and answers.
After flying high in the Bundesliga, Eintracht Frankfurt faces the unpleasant Conference League task at HJK Helsinki on Thursday (live in the radio report from 6.45 p.m. and in the live ticker on the Sportschau). The sporting signs are clear, but there have certainly been more relaxed trips through Europe for the Hessians. An overview.
- When did Eintracht arrive?
- Are there personnel problems?
- What is the sporting starting position?
- Where is the game played?
- How is the place?
- What is the weather like there?
- How many Eintracht fans are there?
- What can fans expect there?
- What happens next?
When did Eintracht arrive?
After a Sunday off, a Monday dedicated to regeneration and a training session on Tuesday, the Frankfurt traveling group set off for Helsinki, around 1,500 kilometers away, on Wednesday morning. Training took place again on site on Wednesday evening, and the usual game preparation is on the agenda on Thursday. There is no time for sightseeing in the third of four away games in a row.
Are there personnel problems?
However. With Tuta, who injured his shoulder during the game in Berlin, and defense chief Robin Koch, who took a hit in training, two pillars of the previously good defense are missing. Coach Dino Toppmöller will have to change and decide between a three-man and a four-man chain. What is particularly unusual is that two left-footed players, Willian Pacho and Hrvoje Smolcic, could form the central defense. That’s not optimal. “We have to accept the circumstances as they are,” said Toppmöller.
What is the sporting starting position?
Pretty clear. HJK Helsinki were crowned Finnish champions for the 32nd time around two weeks ago, Frankfurt’s 6-0 victory in the first leg but revealed the balance of power very clearly. Eintracht goes into the game as the clear favorites and is firmly planning on a win. Since the gap to leaders PAOK Saloniki is currently exactly three points, this is urgently needed. Eintracht definitely wants to finish the group in first place in order to move straight into the round of 16. “We have to ignore the first leg result,” warned Toppmöller.
Where is the game played?
When Eintracht last played a competitive game in Helsinki in August 2022, both the opponents and the venue were much more glamorous. In the European Super Cup, the Frankfurt team coached by Oliver Glasner met Real Madrid (0-2), the game was played in front of almost 30,000 spectators in the Olympic Stadium. Almost 15 months later, the third-tier Conference League is against Helsinki, played in front of just over 10,000 fans at the Helsinki Football Stadium. Tight, small, uncomfortable.
How is the place?
Although the HJK home ground is only a stone’s throw away from the Olympic Stadium, there is a big difference between the two stadiums: the game on Thursday will be played on artificial turf, which is unusual for German standards. “I only know this from my youth. The ball rolls differently, bounces differently, is faster when the grass is wet,” summarized Ansgar Knauff. “We have to get used to it in the final training.” Despite all the uncertainties, one thing is clear: Frankfurt equipment manager Franco Lionti can leave the very long studs in the closet.
What is the weather like there?
Probably just as you would imagine it to be in northern Europe at this time of year. Eintracht and the first fans who arrived were greeted on Wednesday by a closed cloud cover and icy wind. Overall, the city looks very gray; the first cars have already put on the spikes permitted in Finland. Winter is already noticeable in Helsinki.
According to the hr weather editorial team’s forecast, the match day will start off dry, but it will rain just in time for kick-off. Temperatures of just under five degrees round off the wet and cold Finnish experience. Classic bad sauna weather awaits Eintracht.
How many Eintracht fans are there?
The really big crowds of fans are not in the Conference League. 30,000 away fans like in April 2022 in Barcelona are difficult to accommodate given a stadium capacity of 10,770. According to official Eintracht information, between 400 and 500 Frankfurters will be making their way to Finland this time, and almost 200 fans will also populate the VIP box. Frankfurt supporters were occasionally seen around the stadium on Wednesday, but the day before the game the mood was still rather reserved.
What can fans expect there?
One thing is already clear: a trip to the Finnish capital is definitely not cheap. Alcohol prices, not an unimportant factor for away fans, are higher than anywhere else in Europe. A pizza or a burger can easily cost just under 20 euros. All travelers are put off with a city worth seeing and a special program for all diehards.
There will be another boat trip for Eintracht fans on Thursday, and an Irish pub in the city center will also be offering a very worthwhile beer special on Wednesday evening. An initial – non-representative – survey among fans shows: This offer will be well received.
What happens next?
After a total of two nights in Finland, the Eintracht delegation will travel back to Frankfurt on Friday afternoon, where they will regenerate and make the next travel preparations. Since the NFL is also blocking the Waldstadion this weekend, there is another away game for Eintracht. On Sunday (5:30 p.m.) coach Dino Toppmöller’s team will compete against Werder Bremen in the Weserstadion. Back in the north, again with uninviting weather. But at least the lawn is real.